Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Read on to find out the story behind envoPAP, a UK-based sustainable materials company using green technology and agricultural waste to create sustainable printing and packaging products. Founder & CEO, Kaushal Shal tells us his story.
Which came first for you - passion for business or passion for the environment?
Growing up in India of the 1990’s, the environment wasn’t a particularly important topic. Partly because the climate crisis hadn’t announced itself yet and partly because India had just become a free market economy. Naturally, it was both an exciting and challenging time for all businesses including my family’s paper company. Watching my grandfather and father go about their business captivated me from a very young age and consequently, business was my first passion. The environment became a focal point after I moved to the United Kingdom.
What was the key motivating factor at the time you started your business?
During my stint as a postgraduate student at the University of Southampton in 2015, I attended ‘Paperworld’, the world’s biggest paper trade show in Frankfurt. I was shocked by the lack of truly sustainable paper products on offer and worried by the amount of deforestation caused by the industry. On my flight back to London, I read a thought provoking article on plastic pollution and was struck by an epiphany- I must create alternatives to both wood paper and single-use plastic! India has an abundance of agricultural waste that is burnt after cultivation, which has the potential to be converted into high-quality printing and packaging products. I called my father and pitched the idea to him. He was sold by the end of the conversation and the rest is history!
How did you finance your business?
envoPAP has been a bootstrapped business since its inception. It was self-funded in the way that we collected orders based on samples being approved by the buyers. Being a commodity business, the company has been profitable since its first transaction.
Did you have any initial challenges and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was telling people that you can actually make paper from agricultural waste and there is no need to cut down a single tree again! Most people found it very hard to believe and some even found the concept ‘too good to be true’. Overcoming it was only a matter of time because resistance to change isn’t a permanent state of mind.
What are your main revenue streams?
For the last 4 years, our highest selling product has been envoCOPY, an A4 office paper that has helped us take our message of sustainability to over 50 countries. At the same time, we are innovating sustainable packaging solutions that can integrate seamlessly into any supply chain. In the foreseeable future, I anticipate this will become our biggest source of revenue.
If you were to start from scratch, are there any changes you would make?
Only one, I would have applied for B Corp certification earlier.
Is it difficult to make a green business profitable?
Yes. It can be very challenging to convince people that the products they have been buying from time immemorial are partly responsible for the present climate concerns. Also, the whole world is price-sensitive and green products are mostly priced higher than their unsustainable counterparts. No doubt, it is an uphill battle. However, the view from the top is worth it.
Do you have any 'top tips' for those launching a green business?
Focus on building a completely sustainable product or service, don’t cut any corners there. It is vitally important to remain true to the vision and mission of your business. What also helps is applying for the right certifications and standards at an early stage.
Consumer demand and government regulations are going hand in hand to ban products and practices that exert a heavy cost on the environment. Some may argue that it isn’t enough to
reverse the damage that has already been done but nobody can say it isn’t a step in the right direction. Companies that wouldn’t reply to my emails 4 years ago are much warmer to the idea of envoPAP’s eco-friendly offerings. It gives me a reason to believe that we will overcome the climate crisis and deliver a cleaner and greener world to our successors.
You can find more interviews with eco-friendly business owners here.